Washington — The Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) moratorium on evictions, imposed to protect renters during the coronavirus pandemic, to remain in place.
In a 5-4 decision, the court denied a request from a group of realtors and landlords to lift the moratorium, which was first issued by the CDC in September 2020 and prohibits landlords nationwide from evicting certain tenants who fall behind on their rent. Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined with the liberal wing of the Supreme Court in leaving the prohibition in place, while Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett said they would end the moratorium.
In a separate opinion, Kavanaugh cited the CDC’s plans to lift the moratorium next month as justification for allowing it to remain untouched by the court.
“I agree with the district court and the applicants that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention exceeded its existing statutory authority by issuing a nationwide eviction moratorium,” he wrote. “Because the CDC plans to end the moratorium in only a few weeks, on July 31, and because those few weeks will allow for additional and more orderly distribution of the congressionally appropriated rental assistance funds, I vote at this time to deny the application to vacate the district court’s stay of its order.”
While Congress first adopted a temporary moratorium on evictions at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the CDC stepped in to issue its own order on evictions in September after Congress’s moratorium lapsed last summer. The federal health agency has since extended the moratorium several times, with the most recent. Under the CDC’s latest move, the ban on most evictions will expire at the end of July.
In November, the Alabama and Georgia Associations of Realtors and property management companies challenged the lawfulness of the CDC’s prohibition in federal district court, arguing the agency exceeded its authority in issuing the moratorium.
The U.S. District Court in the District of Columbia agreed and vacated the eviction moratorium in May. But the court then granted the Department of Health and Human Services’ request to put its decision on hold pending appeal, allowing the prohibition to remain in place. A three-judge panel for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit then declined to lift the hold.
The realtors and developers asked the high court earlier this month to step in.